Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 29, 2022
Thank you, Madam President, and I thank the High Representative for her briefing this morning. I would also like to commend the continued diligence and professionalism of the independent experts of the OPCW. We salute their tireless efforts to ensure the implementation of the CWC.
As the High Representative has just highlighted, today we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention’s entry into force. For a quarter of a century, the United States, and other nations who share our commitment to a safer world, have endeavored to rid the world of chemical weapons and deter their use by anyone, anywhere, and under any circumstances. In that time, the OPCW has achieved great success, with the Convention having reached near-universality. Relevant to this meeting, the OPCW oversaw the speedy destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.
We now know, unfortunately, that Syria’s declaration was incomplete. Our presence here today, and the Security Council’s ongoing monthly meetings to discuss this subject are a reminder that the Convention and the OPCW’s success and, more broadly, any success in the realm of arms-control and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cannot be taken for granted. Each month here in this council, we are forced to reckon with the fact that the use of these horrific weapons, once thought to be relegated to history, has resumed. We are reminded that we must collectively remain vigilant to prevent the emergence and normalization of chemical weapons use.
Syria, as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreed to never under any circumstances use chemical weapons. Yet, we uncontestably know from the independent reports of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team, the IIT, that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people on at least eight occasions since joining the Convention. Unfortunately, the IIT’s work is not done, as they continue to investigate several additional incidents of chemical weapons use. And the picture is even more grim than that. The United States assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since the conflict in Syria began.
Syria, as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreed to fully disclose the precise location, aggregate quantity, and detailed inventory of chemical weapons it possessed. Yet, as we have heard countless times from the High Representative and OPCW Director-General Arias, Syria’s declaration still cannot be considered complete and accurate, nearly nine years after joining the Convention. In the face of irrefutable proof documented by the meticulous work of the OPCW that Syria is flouting its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations, the Assad regime in this chamber hurls preposterous accusations of bias at the OPCW’s independent and professional experts in a failed effort to impugn them and distract from proven facts.
Russia, which is itself in violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention for its repeated use of chemical weapons and which lacks, frankly, even the most remedial semblance of credibility when it comes to international peace and security, continues to peddle falsehoods in an effort to undermine the OPCW, repeatedly using its Security Council veto to shield Syria from accountability for its atrocities.
As we collectively mark the 25th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States once again calls on Syria to cooperate fully with the OPCW, as it is bound to do by Security Council Resolution 2118, and to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. This includes stopping its obstruction of the work of the OPCW and fully declaring its chemical weapons stockpile and programs for destruction under international oversight. We also call on Russia to act responsibly and cease its efforts to undermine the Chemical Weapons Convention by protecting Syria from accountability for its inexcusable use of chemical weapons.
Colleagues, in conclusion, the most meaningful way to observe today’s 25th anniversary of the Convention entering into force is for every one of us to be faithful to the commitments contained in the convention.
Thank you, Madam President.